Yoga Philosophy

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HISTORY OF YOGA

What is Yoga? Each system defines it in its own way, so we do not have a definitive answer, although we know a lot about it. Traditional thought says that the word “yoga” means “union”. The root “yuj” means “get united”. We could define it as “the union with our true nature, our spiritual essence”. Yoga is an ancient path to experiment the ultimate liberation. Some experts say that this definition is too “western” – “religio” means “union”. But more important than this philosophical meaning, is the practical meaning. Yoga is the union of the practitioner with the tools of union, Yoga actually is the practice that unite mind, body and spirit with the divine. This is a very interesting concept: there is no Yoga without practice.

The Four Goals in Life: The classical pursuits that people strived for in ancient times depending on their own individual tendencies, they would strive for that goal in life. Either duty, imancipation, wealth or pleasure.

  • Dharma: Being in line with the norms of society, righteous and moral. The art of living harmoniously, following dharma creates a natural order in to the universe.
  • Moksha (liberation or freedom) the path to achieve enlightenment
  • Kama (pleasure) a path to fulfil a life that embraces the goodness of life
  • Artha (wealth) a goal to achieve balance in material possessions. Sustaining yourself within this universe.

The main Yoga paths All these Yogas have their own branches and divisions. They are different forms of practice and you may feel more attracted to one than the other depending on your own personal inclination, and these attractions may change throughout your path. This is part of your growth, cultivating the different layers of your Self.

RAJA YOGA Raja-Yoga (royal yoga) refers generally to the techniques exposed in the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. It is also known as Classical Yoga and has eight branches: (ashtanga) as it describes and explains in retail eight different steps in the practice; each step leading logically to the next one, but not always practiced in this order. Of the many Yoga paths, Raja Yoga is one of the most systematically organised. The aspirant must ascendí the different stops with great care and seriousness. None of the steps can be ignored or passed by, except under the aspirant’s own responsibility. These steps are described as a means of achieving mastery over the mind, and as a result of this, mastery over the emotions and the character. Raja-Yoga, interpreted from the dualist Samkhya phylosophy, sees the inner human self as pure consciousness (purusha), whereas the mind is seen as refined matter(prakriti). Mentally and emotionally, one is always subject to the affliction of the different states of the mind. In this way, one is always falling down trapped by the different states of the mind, many of which are very unpleasant. The association of oneself with matter (prakriti) has spoiled our experience of the Self and has placed it behind a very unsatisfactory, contradictory and confused experience. Swami Chidananda (1991) advises that one has to observe oneself and gradually separate the nature of the mind from the matter(prakriti), which is the key to have access to the new levels of conscience beyond the limited mental understanding.

KARMA – YOGA
Karma-Yoga implies dedication to any work, realisation or idea without a thought of prize or personal gain. On renouncing any fruit of action, that action becomes non-selfish. When we are not thinking of our own needs or personal desires, helping others, the heart expands. Selfishness is destroyed and the union (yoga) is achieved. Karma- Yoga is a path which can be practicad continuously, under any condition, when there is a Desire to give a generous and unselfish service. Karma-Yoga is adequate for dynamic and extroverted personalities, with good health and a high capacity for work. Those who feel the need to compensate their energy through physical action will find this path very adequate for them.

JNANA – YOGA
Jnana-Yoga is the Yoga of knowledge. It studies the sacred texts under the guide of a master (guru) reflection , meditation on the contents of the texts. Jnana-Yoga uses the intellect as a means to deny the link to the material world. Through inquisition and analysis, the mind is used to examine its own nature. The characteristic question of Jnana-yoga are: “Why am I here? What is real and what in unreal? Who am I? Jnana-Yoga uses the intellect to deny all what is finite and unreal and then in that way transcend the intellect to melt with what is real. From their psychological point of view, this path is more appropriate for an intellectual and analytical personality.

KUNDALINI YOGA
Kundalini-Yoga is the path of awakening the spiritual energy (kundalini shakti) in a human being, which leads to enlightenment. Kundalini-Yoga is rooted in very ancient tantric techniques and its goal is the mastery on the vital energy (prana), to purify the astral tubes (nadis) and the energy centres (chakras) and awaken the spiritual energy (Kundalini). Kundalini-Yoga has various subdivisions depending on its main practice:

  • Hatha-Yoga: Cleaning techniques (kriyas), postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayamas), hand and body specific gestures (mudras), “seals” (bandhas: local cuts of the flow of the local energy).
  • Mantra-Yoga: using the sound of certain words to focus and control the mind.
  • Yantra-Yoga: using the geometric forms for meditation.
  • Nada-Yoga: using music.
  • Laya-Yoga: the practice of trance, contemplation ( samadhi )
  • Kriya-Yoga: the practice of conscience of the chakras, awakening of the Kundalini and purification of the astral tubes (nadis).

HATHA YOGA
The main belief of Hatha Yoga is that before surrendering oneself to meditation, one must purify the body and its elements. Hatha-Yoga starts with the purification of the whole body with special techniques (kriyas) in the physical level, which purify the eyes, the tongue, the teeth, the lungs, the stomach, the intestines and other body systems. After this physical purification, one starts with the physical postures (asanas) which stimulate the body and prepare it so that it is strong and healthy to start with superior techniques. The purpose to conquer the body first is that the self-control and the self-discipline begin by the grossest part and it continues towards the subtler levels. The next step is the purification of the tubes or astral channels(nadis) through different breathing techniques. The advanced student also applies “mudras” and “bandhas”, special postures and muscular contractions which affect the posture multiplying its effects and helping to seal and reconduct the vital energy (prana) in the body.
The mudras as well as the bandhas, allow the yogi to be aware of the vital energy (prana) and eventually gain control over it, therefore, they are a helpful tool for the spiritual enlightenment.
Besides being a method to prepare the system for the spiritual awakening, Hatha Yoga is also an important system to increase good health.

BHAKTI – YOGA
Bhakti-Yoga is the Yoga of devotional love. Prayers, chanting, ceremonies and rituals form part of its basic premise. The goal of Bhakti-Yoga is to get rid of the egocentric emotions, developing humbleness, to surrender to God or to a superior principle and the feeling of transcendental love.
The majority of religions teach devotion (bhakti), but sometimes they tend to become fanatic.
This Yoga path suits the emotional characters, for those who may find peace through adoration and service, cathartic rites, chanting, mantras, dance, etc.

GLOSARY OF CONCEPTS

Yoga in Indus context, besides the general philosophical lines of Yoga, we must take into account some concepts which are widely accepted in India as well as more to the West, such the karma system, re-encarnation and Gurukula. Doctor Lea Loncar will help us to define these terms.

Karma. The Sanscrit word “karma” means “action” and it refers to any kind of action (physical or mental) and to their results. It is equivalent to the well known law of cause and effect. Any Karma, be it “bad” or “good” is considered binding. Karma is the mechanism by means of which the conditional existence is self-maintained. Not being under the floating influence of Karma, philosophers and sages, with a few exceptions, managed to survive to fatalism. On the contrary, their thoughts have reactivated the question of how this link of moral causality may be avoided. The doctrine of Karma is very close to the doctrine of Reincarnation. If the purpose of life is to realize God or the Self, it will take countless lives to achieve that spiritual goal, passing from the mineral world, to the animal world and finally to the human world.

Reincarnation Only in the human state it is possible to free oneself from the wheel of birth-death and renaissance. In this context, the ultimate purpose of Yoga is to defeat this endless cycle of births and deaths, to put an end to the generation of karma and to awaken, or re-awaken, to our identity as a transcendental Self (Purusha from Samkhya o Atman from Vedanta). In India and in the East in general, transmission of knowledge about karma, reincarnation and other philosophic concepts are based mainly on the oral tradition.

The Guru, Traditionally, Yoga is taught through the Gurukula system, where the master (Guru) and the student (Sadhaka) live, study and work together in an intense relationship master-disciple which usually lasts approximately 12 years. In this intimate relationship, the Guru may transmit the secret of the knowledge of Yoga directly to his disciple and the student may practice all the techniques under his protective guide. The students usually lives with the master approximately 12 years, so there is enough time for the psychological changes and of behaviour of the disciple to take place. Nevertheless, the concept of time is not a rule, as some students are considered talented, so they only need some instructions to develop very quickly, thanks to their previous karmas. To be GURU, you must be initiated directly by your own guru as such. Students in India usually call their Gurus “Swami”, which is a common title to show respect for a spiritual man. It is understood that the Swami is a master for himself more than for other persons. Swamis may live as ascetics, or pass their lives in spiritual centres in India, called Ashrams. In an Ashram, the Guru teaches his students different spiritual paths.

UNITY OF YOGA When one reads different texts on Yoga, one is aware of a certain superposition of concepts and explanations. This only confirms the fact that the different paths of Yoga back up one another and they do not contradict each other. Basically, all the Yoga paths have the common goal of taking the individual away from his suffering and through discipline, mental and physical purification, concentration, being alert, help him to ascend to a different state of experience and conscience. Any initial Yoga practice shakes our present states of conscience to free us from unsatisfactory states where one is completely enslaved by the ego, selfishness, greed, passion, envy, jealousy, disdain and evilness. Helping us to acquire an inner beatitude = beautiful, attitude.

HISTORY OF YOGA

GENERAL SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY OF YOGA

6500 – 4000 B.C.E: Age Before The Vedas
6500 BCE: People of Mehrgarh, near the border of Pakistan/Afghanistan,
First towns discovered. Cities with drainage Systems and elaborate handcraft, where small statues of yogis are discovered in meditation postures. Culture blossoms through commerce with Mesopotamia, nowadays known as Iraq, its influence is clear in the base of Vedic vision.

4000 – 1000 B.C.E: Vedas Age
The four Vedas are composed and written.

4000 – 2000 B.C.E Indus – civilization
Near the border of Pakistan/India. The civilisation develop near the river Saraswati and it was in the Sindus valley. When the river dried, the civilisation must migrate up to the Ganges River. Because of the many years that this migration lasted, the culture becomes more rigid in order to be preserved. Appearing the four casts.

4000 – 3000 B.C.E
-Origin of The Rig Veda.
2200 – 1900 B.C.E –
-River Saraswati dries out.
1500 – 1000 B.C.E –
The second civilization by River Ganges.

1500 – 1000 B.C.E- The Vedas are compiled.
Tradition was oral up to that moment, The Vedas are much older, that is why the metric of the Sutras or “seams” are words with rhythm and rhyme easily remembered.
° Rig Veda: the source
° Sama Veda : the music
° Yajur Veda: the rituals
° Atharva Veda: astrology, magic, ayurveda

1450 B.C.E The Big Wars
The era of the great war of The Mahabarata. The internal wars greatly harmed the culture of the mystic vision of the internal quest and the global health.

1000 – B.C.E: Age of Vedanta/Upanishad
The oldest 700 Upanishads were being written. Sramanas or ascetics emerge as a non-priestly answer to the internal quests. Upanishad = Up Ni Shad = near, to be seated near the master.

599 – 527 B.C.E: Vardhamana Mahavira,
Founder of Jainism.

563 – 483 B.C.E: Siddhartha Gautama,
Founder of Buddhism.

500 B.C.E– 400 C.E: Composition of The Bhagavad-Gita.
Yoga of Dharma, religious duty and the for types of yoga.

100 B.C.E- 500 C.E.: Classical Era : 6 Darshanas
The 6 Darshanas or classical philosophies.

150 – 200 C.E.: Composition of The Yoga-Sutras
Patanjali: the 8 steps as an answer to the strong advance of Buddhism.

500 C.E.: Advaita Vedanta
The end of The Vedas: Shankaracharya

900 -1300 C.E : Kashmir Shivaism and Tantra
Mystic revolution and sublime exposition of the Universe.

950 C.E.: Hatha Yoga Tradition
Nata yogis , Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.

1300: Muslim Invasion
Invasion from the North of India, spread of Shaivism to Tibet (Tantra), South of India and remote sites in the mountains.

1400-1700: Bhakti yoga
Central and North of India: poetry, avangas (chants) and Kirtam (Psalms).

1500 -1900: Invasion of Portugal and United Kingdom.
Commerce with spices begins the interest for Indian culture and philosophy.

1900 1960: Sages bring philosophical yoga to the West.
Vivekananda, Ramakrishna
Ramana Maharshi: Explains Vedanta Yoga.
The indian ascetics are exposed to the public, the West starts to discover them.

1940: Rebirthal of Hatha Yoga
Kishnamacharya and the three great masters of the physical yoga, together with Swami Shivananda and disciples. Also Kundalini Yoga of Yogi Bayan.

1970: Introduction of yoga and meditation
The Beatles take photos of themselves with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
In 1969, Ravi Shankar plays his sitar and Swami Satchidananda gives a conference about the interior peace at Woodstock Festival where millions of youngsters surrender to the flower power.

1970-2000: Hatha Yoga and other devotional schools grow in the West.
Hare Krishna * S. Muktananda * M.T.(Transcendental Meditation) * Osho * Say Baba * Anmma * S.Sivananda * Zen Buddhist and Tibetan Schools. Infinite styles and forms of physical practice and meditation methods.

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